Summer's finale, her crown of jewels

If there's one things that marks the end of summer besides the deafening buzz of cicadas, it's zucchini in abundance.  If your zucchini plants are as healthy as mine, than you're in the same predicament as me.  I think I've made 4 or 5 different recipes of zucchini bread - one that was dry, one with cocoa, one with chocolate chips, and my recent favorite made with orange marmalade.  It's a lovely little recipe I discovered tucked in amongst the array of gorgeous pastry in the Tartine baking book.  There are dozens of other recipes to try, most far more decadent than a humble zucchini bread.  My visit to the Tartine Bakery in San Francisco last spring was the culinary highlight of my year.  So I figured, if anyone has a recipe for my burgeoning veg, it's Tartine.  The marmalade adds an extra level of moisture and flavor.  For the breads, I usually scrape out the seeds and the mealy center portion of the zucchini (especially if it is long and fat), grating it with skin on for extra nutrients and those lovely specks of green.

Zucchini Tea Cake with Orange Marmalade
Yields 1 large loaf

1 3/4 cups + 2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1 t cinnamon
2 eggs
1/2 cup + 2 T vegetable oil
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup orange marmalade (or apricot jam!)
2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1/2 t sea salt
1 cups chopped, toasted walnuts (optional)
sugar for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly oil and flour the bottom and sides of a loaf pan, knocking out the excess flour.  Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon into a mixing bowl and set aside.

In another mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, oil, sugar, and marmalade until combined.  Add the zucchini and salt and again beat until combined.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour mixture and beat until just combined.  Add the nuts if using and mix until incorporated.

Transfer batter to the prepared loaf pan and smooth the surface.  Sprinkle evenly with the sugar.  Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes.  Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes, and then turn out the bread from the pan.  Let cool completely on rack before slicing.

NOTE:  You can prep the ingredients ahead of time, but you must bake off the batter as soon as it is mixed.  Otherwise, the sugar macerates with the zucchini, which pulls out all the moisture, giving you a very watery batter.

Even with all this summer squash, I've been enjoying the last fruits of summer at the farmer's market.  August is a time of plenty for the fruit and veg farmers.  Their piles of produce are breathtakingly beautiful and I couldn't help but capture some of their abundance.

We owe all this color and plenty in part to the work of the dear honeybee, who have been hard at work all summer.  We looked in on our own family of bees just recently.  Would you like to meet our queen?  Our little hive has been battling their way through this hot, draught-ridden summer, struggling to produce much of anything.  We were a little worried because their progress has been slow, but it's always reassuring to spot the queen - she is the center of their little bee world.  See if you can spot her on the below frame - she's just above that little patch of empty cells at about 10 o'clock.  You can't miss her, with her long torso and gilded crown.

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